Saline Valley Farms It's History Then and Now.

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Missy Caulk TEAM

  The Saline Valley Farms, a farm cooperative on nearly 1000 acres, 3½ miles south of town, was begun by Harold S. Gray in 1932. Oral historian James Cameron has written, "(The venture) attracted struggling families during depression years. Over one hundred members lived with their families on site and worked cooperatively to operate a dairy, orchards, poultry house, and gardens. Success mushroomed as members developed a store at the farm to sell to the public and used delivery vans to bring fresh produce and canned goods to Detroit and the suburbs. By the mid-1950s, with the death of the cooperative's founder and a recovering economy and job market, second generation members of SVF families were attracted to life other than farming." It should be noted that most of the residents came to SVF from outside the Saline area, but many these families opted to remain in our area after the Valley Farms closed down. (Cameron)

During World War II, some of Saline's young women went to work in what was termed the "Bomber Plant". Henry Ford had constructed and was operating a huge plant at Willow Run, where airplanes were produced for the government. Breaking into what was normally thought of as a man's world, these women worked side by side, doing whatever job was necessary. Collectively, they were known as Rosie the Riveter. Many of these women had husbands or other relatives in the military and this was their way of helping the war effort and, at the same time, earning money to keep their homes together. Though not on the same pay scale as men, these women earned good wages and life was never the same after that experience.

Jim Cameron is a history teacher in Saline High School and the author of the book Voices Over the Valley and oral history of Saline Valley Farms 1932-1953. The book is filled with details about the "experiment", many people still living in Saline.

Come out and see the cottages and barns and watch the new development grow.

Posted by

 

Missy Caulk, Ann Arbor Realtor

Missy Caulk, Broker/Owner of Savvy Realty Group can be reached at 734-926-9797 or email: Missy@MissyCaulk.com

Our Team of 6 agents are available to help you relocate to Ann Arbor, Saline, Dexter, Chelsea, Milan, Ypsilanti Township, Clinton, Manchester, Whitmore Lake, or throughout Washtenaw County, MI.

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Rainer
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Tina Howell
RE/MAX DFW Associates VI - Little Elm, TX
Little Elm & Frisco Area Real Estate
This is great local history.  I bet your clients love hearing about their community.
Jun 11, 2007 03:37 AM #1
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Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
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Thanks, Tina

Jun 11, 2007 03:41 AM #2
Anonymous
Rex Vaughn
My name is Rex Vaughn, and I am the grandson of Harold M. and Marion Miller Vaughn, the former General Manager and "Social Chairman" of Saline Valley Farms.  My father, David Vaughn, Harold's and Marion's second son, still resides in Owosso, MI.  Although we have significant angst over the conversion of our family heritage to another cookie cutter wittless commercial development and the unnecessary loss of the historic buidings, we do hope that all the new residents have an appreciation for the unique social experiment that took place under the foundations of their present day abodes.  During the depths of the Depression, Harold Gray, a benefactor of the immense fortune created by General Motors, decided to try his hand at social engineering.  In the shadow of the great socialist mecca known as the University of Michigan, my grandfather and grandmother organized and managed Harold Gray's vision.  May you all enjoy Lake Ella Lee, and appreciate the unique site you live on.

Regards,

Rex Vaughn
Jul 20, 2007 12:54 PM #3
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Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
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Rex, we do love it and Lake Ella is the best. The historic building are still there at this point. We do share the history with our clients and Jim Cameron has written a wonderful book on Saline Valley which is available to anyone. I have read most of it.

Three hundred ac are not being developed and being maintained for preservation. Each lot was left with many trees and it is truly a beautiful site.

Jul 21, 2007 12:31 AM #4
Anonymous
Jean Nichols Hillman

Harold Gray was my step-father.  In the oral history it states that the founder died in the 1950s.  Harold Gray wasnthe founder and he died in 1972 of cancer.  The farm no longer operated as a farm although some of the lands were rented out.  During the 1950s it still ran as a dairy farm and when I was home on vacation from college I would go out on milk runs with my step-father.  He took them on some holidays so the regular drivers could have the day off.  He was a kind and gentle Christian man!  In 1969 he and my mother moved to Ann Arbor  Jean N. Hillman

Nov 14, 2008 01:21 PM #5
Anonymous
Jean Nichols Hillman

As I reread Rex's comments I must correct him by saying the Gray money came from Ford not General Motors.  Harold's grandfather was the first president of the Ford Motor Company before it became public.  Harold first became interested in the cooperative idea while teaching economics in Central China in the 1920s just before the revolution there.

Rex, if you read this will you e-mail me?

Nov 14, 2008 01:30 PM #6
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Missy Caulk
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Jean thanks for stopping my this post was written in July 2007 so I'm not sure Rex is still following the thread. Have you read the book by Jim Cameron on the History of Saline Valley Farms, I am sure you would like it, great photos. The cottages are still there, as the area is slow to develop due to the market.

Jim teaches at the high school in Saline, but I can get you a copy if you would like me to, I live in Saline .

Nov 14, 2008 01:37 PM #7
Anonymous
Ralph Hillman

I am Jean Nichols Hillman's husband. We are wondering if the Harold's original home is still standing on the farm? Harold was a wonderful Christian man! He was my mentor after the death of my father. If you have not seen or read his autobiography, you certainly ought to do so. It is entitled "Character 'Bad'" and is available at the UM Library as well as at the Bentley Historical Library.

Nov 17, 2008 01:42 AM #8
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Missy Caulk
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Ralph, I don't know which house was Harolds. Most of the cottages, and houses that were in the back are stll there. What did it look like or do you have the address. If it was on the cul de sac in the back then yes it would still be there as they all are.

Nov 17, 2008 01:50 AM #9
Anonymous
Daniel Taylor

Me and my family used to live there from about 1973-the time when they made everyone move out.That was a great place to live and grow up.We lived on the cul-de-sac 10959 Ella lee road.Lake ella lee was great for fishing.I have alot of memories from there. me and my three brothers enjoyed ourselves alot. I would love to live there again...........

Dec 25, 2008 02:06 AM #10
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Missy Caulk
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Daniel, the houses are still back there. It is a beautiful piece of property and so rare in Saline to have a lake. Had the market not turned I'm sure it would have been further along by now. Thanks for commenting on my blog post.

Dec 25, 2008 02:32 AM #11
Anonymous
DJ

What is the status on this development?  Has the market pretty much stopped it?  How many residents and homes are there? Is it risky to buy in now given the market?

Jan 04, 2009 06:45 AM #12
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Missy Caulk
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There are 6 or 7 families living there and a couple of spec homes available to purchase. Most builders can not get money from banks for spec homes. However, if you can build a custom home it is a fabulous sub and one day will be back to Highly Desirable in Saline.

Jan 04, 2009 09:38 AM #13
Anonymous
Rex Vaughn

Jean:

Thank you for correcting my error on the source of the Gray fortune.  Not long after I posted to the blog I realized my error.

Please feel free to contact me at: rvaughn@tir.com

 

Kindest Regards,

Rex Vaughn

Jan 09, 2009 07:04 AM #14
Anonymous
lisa

Dan Taylor

You must have lived there when my freinds did.  Lsurie Locke and Brenda Zickafoose.  Also my bus would stop there for school.  I always thought it was so cool looking back there even as a 12 year old.

Aug 05, 2010 09:03 AM #15
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